Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families

Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families

Recent research on digital media use points to two important gaps in educational opportunity for low-income families with young children. First, there is an access gap with technology and learning in lower-income families. Second, there is what scholars refer to as a participation gap, in which digital resources are not well guided or supported to ensure educational progress.

The findings are out today from the New York-based Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street.

New research shows that basic Internet access is nearly universal, even among low- and moderate-income U.S. families: an estimated 94% of these families have some kind of Internet access. Even among the poor, it stands at 91%. But researchers now say many low-income families are “under-connected,” in many cases getting by with only a single Internet-connected computer or, quite often, with mobile-only Internet access through a smartphone or two.

Despite these barriers, many low-income families are using media and new technologies in creative ways to support their children’s pathways to success and to strengthen family relationships. In the report, media and policy expert Vicky Rideout and Rutgers University scholar Vikki Katz explore the current uses of digital technologies to help promote educational opportunities for all through a national survey of nearly 1,200 low-income parents of school-age children and in-person interviews with lower-income, Hispanic families in three communities located in Arizona, California, and Colorado.

The survey was fielded by SSRS from April 16 through June 29, 2015, via landline and cell phones.